It’s more than likely we’ve all had a spendy Christmas, some more than most. There’s not only the cost of purchasing presents for all our loved ones, but also the added costs of financing family eats on the special day, as well as keeping the kids entertained during the holidays. For those struggling financially it can eat up a large part of the cash.
The important thing is not to get down about it, but to work out a solution and begin working towards that goal. As most people who know me personally, I am all about fixing and finding a solution rather than wallowing. It’s not easy either, because temptation is ripe but eventually if you make something a habit, it becomes normal.
For instance when I began to look at my emergency fund, I realised how much smaller it could be if I lowered my cost of living. Slowly I began to do without certain things, and focussing on setting aside as much money as I could when I could. These became new habits and now they are no longer habits but my normal. It didn’t happen immediately either. I had to learn which took time, wasted money and even now I am not fantastic at it just good enough to be satisfied while looking to improve.
The first things I looked at were my necessities. What do we really need to survive?
It’s simple really, food and shelter. Anything else is a want unless it’s something one needs to support that food and shelter.
FOOD – A necessity
In the month of October 2016, I did a Grocery Budget Challenge to challenge myself to stick to a set amount per month. Full confession, groceries are my nemesis because I love to grocery shop and it got a little of control to where I would be heading off to the supermarket every second day. Sometimes this would result in my missing out a monthly haircut in order to maintain my budget!
Currently I am able to temper my desire to grocery shop and have learned ways to cut down this nasty habit with a great side effect being that I rarely ever feel the desire to go out for coffee or takeout. In turn what was initially difficult became normal. How do I do this?
- I never buy take-out food, unless I meet a friend for a meal out.
- I never buy coffee unless it’s part of my grocery list aka the instant kind or I am meeting a friend per the above.
- I shop the sales and mostly buy vegetables and fruit in season.
- I eat beans, chicken, eggs and canned tuna as my main protein sources to reduce the cost of meat.
- I restrict the amount of times I shop for groceries.
- I only buy what is necessary and never waste food.
- I batch cook (Egads!). I ain’t the best cook in the world but I’ve learned as long as what I cook is tasty I’m not inclined to buy takeaway.
SHELTER – Another necessity
I currently rent and more than likely will remain a lifetime renter. It would be absolutely awesome to own my shelter but if I can’t, life isn’t so bad and this is how I keep costs down in a very expensive city.
- Shared living. I live in a shared housing arrangement, where I have my own walk-in wardrobe and bathroom. If I were to have my own apartment my rent would have increased my almost 100% on what I am paying now or at the very least be 45% of my current wage. You can see why the shared housing arrangement is financially appealing for me.
- Power and water is included in my rent. No separate quarterly bills to look forward to!
This arrangement is unlikely to go on forever but I am happy to maintain the current status quo for a few more years yet. It’s the choice I have made to save money. If you’re looking at reducing your costs in this area, consider smaller dwellings, different suburbs and yes sharing the cost with others.
HOUSEHOLD BILLS Power/Internet/Phone/Cable/Insurance
This covers what most households will have in their standard budget and one thing people should examine closely if money is a problem. The first question to ask is do they really need it? If so why? If the why is figured out then find a way to reduce that cost.
From plugging up the cool draft in your homes with foam tape, to eliminating digital TV, (let’s face it that definitely ain’t needed) or cutting off the home phone. Even the internet I consider to be a luxury though some may argue it’s a necessity. Granted there are some situations in which it may be requirement.
Either way at least some of this can be eliminated full stop and some costs can be reduced by using plain old common sense. The best motivation however in eliminating/reducing these bills is asking yourself the question, if it was a choice of having these bills or losing your food and shelter, chances are you would more than likely choose food and shelter.
Luxury items, cars, televisions, new computers, new phones the list is endless. My motto is if you can’t afford to buy it outright then you can’t afford it at all, and let’s not forget the cost of maintaining something that is expensive to own.
If you have a vehicle do you really need it or are you holding on to it because it makes life easier? Owning a teenaged Toyota I can assure you it’s expensive maintaining one paid off vehicle. I definitely don’t need a car, I can survive easily using my two feet and public transport, but it is a luxury that for now I can afford and choose to minimise the costs of owning a vehicle in my own way. The important word in this statement being that I can AFFORD it.
The same principle applies to televisions, mobiles, and other digital masterpieces that 20 years ago wasn’t even on my radar. Not to mention every day items that can be purchased from thrift stores for a fraction of the price brand new or borrowing from the local library. Get my drift? Search for ways in which to entertain yourself and there are plenty of resources for free or at a lower cost.
I could preach on but at the end of the day making small changes eventually becomes a habit until it’s not. It’s not easy at first, change can be difficult, until one day it becomes normal that you won’t even have to think about it anymore.